Portfolio School Lies to You, Part 5

When I was in portfolio school, one thing was drilled into me over and over and over:

It’s all about the big idea.
Okay, it’s not a lie. But it is only a half-truth. Because having brilliant ideas does not mean the client is going to buy them. As Seth Godin pointed out in a recent post, “Selling ideas is a fundamentally different business than having ideas.”
He also writes, “The quality of ideas is not a factor in whether or not you will be in a position to have a chance to sell those ideas.”
In other words, you can have a Titanium Lion-quality idea get killed in a client meeting because you thought you’d wing your presentation. Or because your account team, creative director or president doesn’t recognize it as a Titanium Lion-quality idea.
You need to be concerned with having big ideas. But it’s not all¬†about the big idea. You have to have the skills, the team, and the perseverance to sell them.
Make sure you’re at an agency that will champion big ideas. If the client needs to be challenged, make sure you’re at an agency that will do so diplomatically, but thoroughly. And make sure you either develop the presentation skills you need to sell your work, or have someone you completely trust to do so for you.

2 thoughts on “Portfolio School Lies to You, Part 5

  1. This is all very true, but i wonder if maybe we have two different definitions of ad school. Are you supposed to be educated in all the inter-workings of an ad agency? Or are you supposed to think big and leave with the best book you can possibly create? I feel like Portfolio School becomes a success when you achieve the latter. Leave the office politics and other crap for when you actually have to deal with it.


  2. A very good point.I’d guess I’d try to clarify it this way…1. As a portfolio school student, focus on your book and only your book. That’s what will get you your job.2. While in portfolio school, use every opportunity you can to hone your presenting skills. And be adept and explaining the reasons for your layout, tone, images, etc. (Even if you’re making them up.)


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